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Two Weird Diseases in Pregnancy: When to Worry

maternal health maternal wellness motherhood nutrition pregnancy pregnancy care pregnancy hygiene pregnancy symptoms sfm podcast Mar 20, 2024
She Found Health
Two Weird Diseases in Pregnancy: When to Worry

Sometimes it might seem like restricting certain foods in pregnancy is overkill, but once you listen to this episode, you’ll understand why! Keep in mind these two diseases are quite rare in pregnancy, but if you do contract them and pass them onto your baby, they can have dire consequences. There is no need to overly worry, but we think it’s important to be aware and just exercise a little bit more caution - as always, knowledge is power!

As always, we’d love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on this episode or suggestions for future topics. Just shoot us an email or DM! Looking for more? Check out our Pregnancy to Parenthood Online Prenatal Masterclass, taking you from anxious and overwhelmed to confident during your childbirth experience. Let’s dive in!


What is it:

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the intracellular protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Most individuals may not show symptoms or experience mild flu-like signs. However, when contracted during pregnancy, the parasite can cross the placenta, leading to congenital toxoplasmosis with severe consequences for the fetus. Keep in mind that pregnancy effectively suppresses the  immune system making pregnant people more susceptible to illness and their accompanying symptoms.

What causes it:

The primary modes of exposure to toxoplasmosis include:

  • consuming raw or undercooked meats
  • drinking unpasteurized milk
  • contact with cat litter, sand, or soil contaminated with cat feces.

 Infection in early pregnancy poses a small risk of fetal transmission, but rates increase significantly in the third trimester - between 60%-80%.

How to avoid:

Prevention involves steering clear of potential sources of T. gondii, such as avoiding contact with litter boxes or soil. Indoor cats, provided with cooked or dry food (as opposed to wet food), are less likely to transmit the infection. Pregnant people should also refrain from consuming undercooked, raw, or cured meat, as well as raw, unwashed fruits or vegetables. Practicing proper hand hygiene is also essential in reducing the risk of infection!


What it is:

Listeriosis is caused by the bacteria Listeria, commonly found in soil, water, cattle, and poultry - a lot of what we regularly eat (and nutrients we need) in pregnancy! It results in a foodborne illness and is a leading cause of food poisoning. Pregnant people are ten times more likely to contract listeriosis than the general population, again due to being immunosuppressed during that time.

What causes it:

Listeriosis symptoms range from mild flu-like discomfort to more severe conditions like fever, chills, and diarrhea. Pregnant women may not exhibit symptoms, yet the infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or preterm labor. Babies born with listeriosis may suffer from serious infections affecting the blood or brain, leading to lifelong health issues.

How to avoid:

Preventing listeriosis involves avoiding specific foods during pregnancy, such as:

  • unpasteurized milk and dairy products (such as a lot of soft cheese, unfortunately)
  • hot dogs, and luncheon meats (unless thoroughly heated) 
  • refrigerated pâté, meat spreads, and smoked seafood
  • unwashed raw produce, including fruits and vegetables
  • raw or undercooked seafood, eggs, meat, and poultry

Cooking and pasteurization are the only effective means of eliminating Listeria.

In both cases, timely detection and intervention are crucial. If toxoplasmosis is suspected, testing amniotic fluid can determine the risk to the fetus. In the case of listeriosis, bloodwork can confirm the infection, and antibiotics may be prescribed to protect both the mother and the developing fetus.

Pregnancy is a precious time, and ensuring a healthy journey involves being aware of potential risks. Toxoplasmosis and listeriosis may be rare, but understanding their causes and taking preventive measures can significantly mitigate the risks.

Following dietary guidelines, practicing proper hygiene, and seeking timely medical attention are key to a safe and healthy pregnancy. And remember, the safe choices made during these (comparatively) short nine months can pave the way for a lifetime of well-being for both mama and child.

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